"I know they have a lot of weapons, they're experienced, they know how to work the game and they're hard to guard," the Bulls' rookie head coach said Friday night. "I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and their willingness to share with each other."
Kevin Garnett chased down Joakim Noah and tipped the ball away from behind with 14 seconds left in overtime, and the Celtics held on to beat Chicago 110-105. It was the second consecutive overtime game for the Celtics, the first back-to-back OT games since they played three straight against the Bulls in the first round of the 2009 playoffs.
"We got some valuable experience in these overtimes, which is great," Boston's Paul Pierce said. "I thought we really kept our poise."
Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and he also drew an offensive foul on Derrick Rose with Boston nursing a three-point lead in overtime. Ray Allen, who scored 25 points, followed with a dunk on an assist from Pierce to make it a five-point game.
After Luol Deng tipped in Kyle Korver's airball, Chicago had a chance to cut it to one point when Noah tried to take off on a fast break. But Garnett ran him down and tipped the ball to Glen "Big Baby" Davis; he hit the foul shots to clinch it.
"He's a gazelle," Davis said. "He runs. He's long. I don't know what Joakim was thinking, but he was trying to make a play for his team, so I give him credit for that."
Noah had 26 points and 12 rebounds for Chicago. Deng scored 20 and Rose had 18 points and nine assists for Chicago, which lost its second straight game and fell to 0-2 on the road.
"I had a huge turnover at the end. I can't lose the ball in that situation," Noah said. "I think we're not there yet, but we're pretty close. We're only going to get better, and when we do, it's going to get real ugly for everybody who's talking real crazy. All the trash that people are talking right now is going to come back and haunt them. Because when it counts, we'll be ready."
Boston has won four in a row, and has not lost at home.
The Celtics led by as many as 16 points in the third, but Chicago cut it to six points late in the quarter and took the lead midway through the fourth when C.J. Watson hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulls an 82-81 lead. Boston opened a six-point lead before Deng hit a 3-pointer with 2 1/2 minutes left, then he hit another with 1:18 left in regulation to make it 96-96.
The Celtics had the ball with 35 seconds left and a chance to take the lead, but Pierce overthrew Allen, and Keith Bogans outran Allen to the loose ball, diving to the court and calling a timeout before he rolled out of bounds.
That gave Chicago the ball with 23.3 seconds left. Rose dribbled the clock down before trying to drive against Rondo, but the Celtics point guard went low and knocked the ball away; it bounced to Noah, but he couldn't gain control before the buzzer sounded.
Rondo scored 10 points with 11 assists – below his record-setting average of more than 16 in the first five games. Rivers said Rondo had a foot injury that he was monitoring; the trainer had said Friday morning that Rondo would not be able to play.
The crowd gave Thibodeau a warm welcome back, but the biggest cheer was for Brian Scalabrine, who spent five years in Boston and became a fan favorite as a bench player on the '08 champions.
In fact, a video of Scalabrine's scoring and Thibodeau's coaching from their Boston days got a louder reaction than the later one commemorating Pierce's 20,000th point as a Celtic. The other Boston players applauded Pierce, who remained on the bench and nodded.
The crowd gave a big cheer when the scoreboard showed the Miami Heat losing in the fourth quarter to the New Orleans Hornets. … Davis drew two more charging fouls in the first half, giving him 11 for the season. The Celtics had 13 as a team coming into the game, compared to five for opponents. … Shaquille O'Neal did not play for the third straight game because of a bruised right knee. Rivers said O'Neal was questionable for the road trip to Oklahoma City, Dallas, Miami and Memphis. … Boston's Semih Erden and Chicago's Omer Asik, teammates on the Turkish national team, matched up in the low post in the first half.